Friday, June 29, 2007
Thursday, June 28, 2007
I have a funny memory from my childhood: I was eating a meal with my family at a restaurant and saw a woman sitting alone at the counter eating a piece of pie. I was around 8 or 10 years old, and I remember thinking how much fun it would be when I was grownup and could eat dessert anytime I wanted to, even eating it instead of dinner.
Well, I was right - it is great to be grownup and able to eat a huge ice cream cone an hour before your usual dinner time and no one thinks it might not be a good idea! Here we are (Bev Brown, Odel King, and William Brown) at the ice cream parlor in Bandon, Oregon, with homemade cones filled with local Umpqua ice cream. Fine, very fine.
Unlike today - which is very wet and rather stormy - the weather on Tuesday and Wednesday was perfect for our thorough exploration of the area surrounding Coos Bay on our sightseeing adventures with my (Laurie's) parents (aka Mommy and Daddy) and Aunt Dorothy (aka AD).
Our first day was spent exploring Sunset Bay State Park and Shore Acres, the extensive gardens of what was once a grand mansion on the bluffs overlooking the Pacific. It is a beautiful stretch of the Oregon coastline, just a mile or two from our site at Oceanside RV Park, where we headed for an early dinner: grilled salmon, quinoa pilaf, green beans, an Oregon Pinot Gris... with a dessert of berry torte (berries from the Eugene farmer's market) and vanilla ice cream. Hard to say what I like best, the sightseeing or the meal?? Both were great.
One of the fun aspects of having "guests" is that we see things we might otherwise have skipped. Such was the case with the Umpqua Discovery Center. When I was researching "things to do" in the Reedsport area, I saw the Discovery Center mentioned a few times and we decided to seek it out.
The Center is hidden along a back road on the bank of the Umpqua River. Our group of 5 adults looked the place over rather cynically, standing in a tourist-oriented gift shop discussing whether the exhibits would be worth the $7/$8 admission fee. We finally decided to chance it (thank you, AD!), paid, and headed into the first exhibit.
What fun! Their website says "The exhibit is an adventure for the young and the young at heart" and it is a good description. We followed a "path" through an exhibit that made great use of beautifully designed and painted murals, a variety of walking surfaces (wooden boardwalks for the "ocean" related exhibits, a textured, slightly spring-y surface for the forest exhibits), and fantastic "animatronics", the sounds of the environment we moved through: bird calls, waves, children on the school playground, creaking masts, a growling mountain lion... it was great fun, interesting, educational -in short, something I would visit again and recommend to other travelers. Yes, it is worth the price of admission and, if you travel with children, they will be captivated.
So, we have packed two days with visits to lighthouses, a viewing of Roosevelt Elk, campground tours (Odel and I have a difficult time passing up campgrounds), lots of viewpoints. We finally gave up when Daddy said he wasn't getting out of the car again until it was to go into his motel room. A good visit!
at 2:33 PM
Sunday, June 24, 2007
We arrived here in Charleston, Oregon, our home for the next week, at 2:30 this afternoon. As we set up our home, the skies continued to clear. The beach is a one minute walk through the dunes; this was the view when we took our walk at 4 pm. Temperature: 63 degrees. Whoopeeeee!
at 7:54 PM
Saturday, June 23, 2007
Eugene's downtown Saturday Market is one of the best we have encountered. Two blocks of a couple downtown streets are closed to traffic; an entire block and the sidewalks of a couple neighboring blocks are completely covered with little vendor booths. Every sort of craft is here: quilts, bags, jewelry, pottery, photographs, paintings, princess tiaras, t-shirts, hats, cards, and lots and lots of tie-dye.
Odel and I split up when we arrive. He goes straight to the restaurant booths for a bite to eat; I head for the crafts booths and peruse them from one end to the other.
When we both are satisfied, we head to the one block that is the actual farmer's market and browse until we are ready to make our decisions and do some buying.
Today's purchases: the huge bouquet of flowers I am holding; 3 small, intensely fragrant heirloom tomatoes; fresh green onions, a 2-person sized sweet potato pie, and a pint each of fresh raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, and Sylvan blackberries - sweeter and much less seedy than other blackberries I have had. What a rewarding shopping experience.
at 7:30 PM
Thursday, June 21, 2007
Considering that we are not shopping mall fans, it seems funny to me that one of our very favorite camp sites, to which we return whenever we are anywhere near Eugene, Oregon, is the Valley River Center, the big mall for the area.
Here are Scoopy and Jules in our "usual" spot in the parking lot out back at the mall. On the other side of Scoopy is the Willamette River, with biking/walking paths right outside our door and a view of the river from our driver's side windows. On the passenger side (behind me as I took the photo) is about an acre of empty parking lot.
From here, we can walk through parkland for several miles on either side of the river, drive to an outstanding Thai restaurant in under 10 minutes, or cross the river to downtown Eugene. Eugene is a college town, with the liberal diversity we enjoy. They have an outstanding Farmer's Market on Saturday mornings, half locally grown food, the other half wonderful arts and crafts (we will be there on Saturday morning). Within 15 minutes we can stock up at both Trader Joes and Costco.
The RV parks near Eugene are either absurdly expensive ($30 and more per night), noisy (too close to I-5) or tightly packed. Here at the mall - which has a limit of 3 nights and no hookups of any kind - the nightly price is ZERO, the noise all comes from the Canada geese on the river, and we have a minimum of 200 yards between us and the nearest vehicle. Friendly security guards patrol frequently, our Verizon cell phones have a good strong signal, the aircard for internet access works, there are great local NPR stations... what more could we ask for?
at 8:26 PM
When we left Sacramento to begin our fulltiming lives on April Fool's Day in 2003, our first destination was Paws and Hooves Ranch. The occasion? The 99th birthday of my grandfather, G.D. Brown - we all called him Bampy - April 15th, 2003.
It was a big family reunion, as it did not seem - at the time - that we should wait until his 100th.
Surprise! We were able to visit with him during many, many more stays at the ranch. He passed on at age 101 1/2, with his memory more intact than mine is - just the sort of genes you love to have in your gene pool.
This portrait of Bampy was painted by Sydney Brown (my sister), an artist who lives in Bisbee, Arizona and was a present to our dad on Father's day. I couldn't resist putting it on our blog.
By the way, Sydney's usual subject is the landscape of the southwest. You can see her work in Bisbee or, coming soon, on her website (I will post a link to our blog when the website is released).
at 7:00 AM
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
Today, our last day in Hood River, Oregon, we hit a sweltering high of 82 degrees. Well, sweltering for Scoopy, because we are parked broadside in full sun, with at 30 amp hookup with such low voltage that we can't run an airconditioner!
Well, no matter because 1) we are heading west, closer to the ocean tomorrow and 2) we were up in the mountains hiking for most of the day, where the weather was perfectly beautiful.
It is so difficult to decide which photos to post on the blog. Which photos can best convey the brilliant sunshine on Mt. Hood, and the way the mountain so completely dominates the view? The delicacy of the wild rhododendron blooming along the roadsides, and decorating the picnic areas on the lakeshore? The way the light danced on the lake and dappled the trail woods? It was just one of those lovely days that can't be described, in photos or words.
On one side of the lake is a campground and a picnic area - lots of fishermen, families in canoes and rowboats, and folks relaxing in camp chairs on little patches of rocky shore. Both Odel and I thought it would not have been a bad idea to bring our swimming suits.
Instead, we hiked around the lake, mostly through a tunnel of trees. Odel climbed down into a little bog for me so we could show the size of these GIANT leaves; they looked like lunch for a brontasaurus.
Another botanical surprise was the rhododendrons blooming in the wilds. I have seen them painstakingly cultivated in gardens in less adapted climates; here they bloomed in long, thick hdeges on the side of the road.
So, that was the last day of our week-long stay in Hood River.
This morning, I was bemoaning the fact that we have to leave tomorrow. This afternoon, when we had to unplug from our low-voltage electric hookup and run our own generator to create enough power to run our air conditioner, I was ready to go - and to return next fall or spring to visit the many places still to see in the gorgeous Gorge.
at 9:51 PM
Monday, June 18, 2007
Nope, this is not a photo from Hood River, Oregon. This is Agnes Siosefa, an artist in Samoa - one of the entrepreneurs we have met through Kiva. We and 15 other "lenders" from all over the US loaned Agnes a total of $850 for 22 months so that she can grow her business.
Among our dozen loans are artists in Mexico and and Ghana, a welder in Mexico (we know what an important skill this is!), a woman in Honduras who sells the most delicious-looking grilled chicken, and an "identify protected" copy shop owner in Kirkuk, Iraq, trying to keep his business going (this one might end up being a "donation" rather than a loan).
I am becoming addicted to the Kiva website, no doubt about it. It always puts a smile on my face to add our small contribution to join in on a loan to a hardworking farmer, artist, blacksmith... and to be able to do so in such a direct and connected way.
Click here to see our complete "portfolio" of loans.
at 8:24 AM
Sunday, June 17, 2007
Many readers of this blog know my cousin Rosanna, or know of her through our visits to Paws and Hooves Ranch, her place in Cochise County, Arizona. I HAD to post this photo of her newly completed quilt!
Here is her description of how it came to be completed:
"...Jeanie (with Mom's help) sneaked it, my sewing machine and all materials out of the house about 6 weeks ago, and Jeanie finished quilting it. It is GORGEOUS!!!!!! She and Ray came over Wednesday and put it on my bed, and surprised me when I got home from work. WHAT A SURPRISE!!!!! I'll send you a picture."
Rosanna, it looks great.
at 4:42 PM
Friday, June 15, 2007
After a warm, sunny, breezy day yesterday, today's weather fit my "Oregon weather" stereotype exactly: cool, misty, cloudy. No sign of Mt. Hood or Mt. Adams today!
Well, we're not wimps. Off we went with raincoats and hats to hike the Columbia River Scenic Highway Trail to the west - the wetter west. This photo shows the old rock railing, covered with moss, alongside the river. Low clouds, a mist that came and went... it turned out to be a wonderful day for a walk.
After our hike, we went to the Bonneville Dam. I remembered coming here as a kid, and the huge, primordial looking sturgeon are just as wierd and scary now as they were then. Look at this guy!
We bought fish food for a quarter and watched the trout feeding frenzy, looked at all the hatchery ponds... and, as an adult (and avid gardener), I was able to appreciate the gardens and landscaping, too.
Then we were off to Multnomah Falls, to join the throng walking up the trail to the graceful stone bridge over the pool at the base of the first fall. Thank goodness we were there on a weekday; the weekend must be a complete traffic jam, both auto and human. Lovely as it was, we didn't stay long - there are so many other great spots throughout the Gorge with a fraction of the traffic.
at 8:31 PM
Thursday, June 14, 2007
Last September, we went zipping through the Columbia River Gorge in just a few hours, rushing over to the coast to meet our friends at the annual crabfest. Ever since, I have looked forward to a return visit to the gorge.
Hood River, Oregon, seemed a good spot to set up our home: a great central Gorge location on a bluff above (not beside) the busy railroad that runs right along the edge of the river, with a direct road south to explore Mt. Hood.
Washington is across the bridge to the north, orchards and farms all around... sounds like a good place to stay awhile, doesn't it? It took a lot of web-surfing, but we found a small campground that works for us, and we will be here in Hood River for a week.
Our first stop this morning was at a nearby golf course where I took this photo (above) of Mt. Hood, another of the shockingly massive volcanos of Cascade chain. Then I turned 180 degrees, to the north, and took a similar shot of Mt. Adams, a snow-covered cone in Washington. I can't get over the size of these peaks!
We took off for the eastern stretch of the Columbia River Scenic Highway, the original route from Portland to the east via the Gorge. I took this photo from an overlook were we began a hike along the bluffs above the river. The road was engineered for Model T's, the auto of the time; the grade could be no more than 5% and the turning radius (the curves) no sharper than 100 feet. It must have been a real adventure to make that drive.
The original road is now obsolete, bypassed by a major, 4 lane, high-speed interstate right along the edge of the Columbia River through the gorge. Far more efficient, but the historic, scenic highway (where it is still maintained as a road) is a fun alternative for sight-seeing.
On our way home, we stopped at Hood River Lavender Farm. It is on the top of a ridge about 10 miles out of town, with the same fabulous views of Mt. Hood and Mt. Adams that we saw from the golf course - but the blooming fields of lavender and the large cutting flower garden were a beautiful distraction.
Tomorrow we plan to head west to drive another section of the historic highway and hike to the most famous of the Gorge waterfalls, Multnomah Falls - the second tallest waterfall in the US (by the way, Yosemite Falls is the tallest in the US). More photos, I'm sure!
at 5:24 PM
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
The Ten Falls hike at Silver Falls State Park ranks right up near the top of my "favorite hikes" list (which, since it exists only in my head, is easily edited). It had a few points in its favor before we even got started: we had a perfect, sunny day for hiking, with a high temperature around 70 or 75 degrees; and, we are in Oregon, beautiful, leafy, emerald green Oregon.
Wildflowers, from big gaudy bushes of Scotch Broom (I know... it is considered invasive and undesireable here in the Pacific Northwest, but it looked SO beautiful and graceful in full, golden bloom) to tiny little white starflowers, bloomed alongside the road and the trails. We headed off from the lodge and, within a few minutes, we came around a curve to face the "best" of the ten falls, South Falls, 177' of falling water. Wow!
I took this "full length" shot of the falls WITH ODEL to show the scale of the falls... but I doubt that you call see him, even in his red shirt. I can barely find him and I know just where to look.
So, here he is in a closer shot. See the trail, around behind the falls?
Hard to figure this picture out, isn't it? We were standing behind the falls, looking out and up.
After our hike, we stopped in the visitor center gift shop to buy an Oregon State Parks Annual Pass, which will cover the day use fees for any Oregon state park we visit during the next year. We paid a volunteer, who turned out to be a fulltimer volunteering in exchange for her campsite. I had spent about an hour on the Oregon State Park website last night looking at the volunteer opportunities, so we pumped her for all kinds of info. Every so often, volunteering seems like an appealing idea - until I have had dinner and a glass or two of wine and imagine a camper knocking on my door needing help!
at 7:26 PM
Monday, June 11, 2007
I have no doubt we will stay at Seven Feathers RV Resort whenever it is along our travel path - what a great stay. We even used the indoor pool and hot tub last night.
I took this photo of the wildflowers along the roadside this morning while we were taking our last walk. The landscaping in the park is beautifully designed and manicured, but the sculpted berms along the long, curving driveway leading to the park appealed to me even more; they clearly had been planted with a wildflower seed mix of pinks, blues and brilliant red poppies. Gorgeous, and such attention to detail.
We dragged ourselves away 15 minutes before checkout time and drove north to Salem, where we settled into the RV parking at the Elks Lodge. Ho-hum. Yes, I got spoiled after only 3 days! But we have a nice big site here, backed up to a park with room to roam (not too far) for Luna. We will be here 2 nights, until we head for a week-long stay in Hood River, along the Columbia River.
I opened up our "Northwest Hiking" book after we briefly explored downtown Salem this afternoon, and found we are less than 30 miles from Oregon's largest state park, Silver Falls. Here is a description of the trail we plan to hike tomorrow, the premier hike in the park:
"The Canyon Trail is a nationally recognized trail system that leads hikers along the banks of the north and south forks of Silver Creek. It takes you to 10 majestic waterfalls, ranging from the grand South Falls (177 feet), to the delicate Drake Falls (27 feet). Four of these falls have an amphitheater-like surrounding where you can walk behind the falls and feel the misty, crisp spray."
That's tomorrow's plan.
at 9:21 PM
Saturday, June 9, 2007
Too bad I didn't take a photo yesterday, when the weather was sunny, blue, and 70-something degrees. Still, though today is cloudy, you can see that this is a beautiful spot. That's Scoopy in the center of this photo, flying our peace flags. (Double click the photo for a larger view).
Seven Feathers RV Resort is one of the few parks we have visited that deserves the term "resort", though many a miserable dive feels free to tack it onto their name. As we headed this way yesterday, we made a list of the amenities we feel are the minimum allowable for a "resort" - Seven Feathers has everything on our list and more.
This morning, our 10,000 steps took us down the hill through the RV park, under I-5, to the Seven Feathers Casino. The RV resort gives a 10% discount if you have a Player's Club card, so we went off to get one.
The Player's Club card comes with all the usual coupons and inducements to entice you to gamble. They sucked us in, and soon we were sitting in front of a video poker machine feeding in a Player's Club credit of $5 and one lone dollar bill of our own (last of the big-timer spenders).
Fifteen minutes later we were out the door with $75 of THEIR money, on our way back to the RV resort to pay for another night. We paid for night three AND got a credit back for 10% or the first two nights stays... at this rate, we might just move in.
at 6:44 PM
Friday, June 8, 2007
WOW! When we left Redding this morning in bright sunshine, Mt. Shasta floated in the distance like a mirage, soon swallowed by the thickly forested slopes of the "lesser" mountains. Suddenly, no warning - pow! You go around a curve and there is Shasta, totally dominating the view, snow-capped, dominating, powerful.
This photos was taken in Oregon, at the rest stop where we ate our lunch. Odel told me the plane in the foreground is one of the retardent dropping planes used in firefighting.
When we drove south on I-5 last October, we stopped for lunch near Seven Feathers Casino in Canyonville, Oregon, 100 miles north of the CA/OR border. The Cow Creek band of the Umpqua Indians own the casino, and had just finished an RV resort nearby, which we visited. It is one of the few we have seen that deserves the term "resort".
For an unusual treat - after a wild night at the Redding Elks where a boisterious high school graduation party lasted until 5:30 am - we decided to spend the next two nights here. Oh, blessed quiet! Gorgeous view, wildflowers blooming, hot tub, swimming pool - and a free "happy hour" tasting of wines from a local winery just after we checked in. Excellent day with an excellent evening in store. I'll try to post some photos tomorrow.
at 8:49 PM
Thursday, June 7, 2007
Our first day of travel after a month at Cal Expo started off with a little delay.
For the past six months, we have watched Scoopy's right front tire develop an irregular pattern of wear. From time to time I panic over it, but have been reassured by "knowledgeable" people (like, for instance, a truck driver parked next to us during our lunch stop in a Texas rest area) that it is OK as long as the tire still has plenty of tread. We have been planning to get all six new tires next week in Eugene, Oregon - just 500 miles up 1-5.
Last night, Odel took a look and seemed quite concerned that the "cupping" on the edge of the tire appeared worse than he remembered. I looked at it this morning - PANIC! So, as we headed out on our pre-departure walk, I mentioned the big knot of anxiety in my stomach. He must have felt the same, because we made an abrupt about face, called the nearest Les Schwab (in West Sacramento), and were in the shop getting two new front tires within an hour of my comment. I love a decisive man!
By 12:30 pm, we were on the road north, feeling so relieved. At Les Schwab, we were told that our back tires have at least another year of life, so we rolled on especially happily, feeling safe and secure with our two new front tires and a major expenditure postponed until next year.
In Redding, we set up in record time so we could hit their wonderful Sacramento River pedestrian and bike trail. It is about 1.5 miles from the Elks lodge to the graceful, interesting, Sundial Bridge, so we managed to get our delayed walk in afterall. This photo of the bridge is from our visit last fall; today the weather was cloudless and warm.
at 8:32 PM
Tuesday, June 5, 2007
I have heard from a fellow Kiva lender that ABC news will be airing a story about Kiva, and more specifically about Iraqi borrowers, on their evening news tonight. If you are not able to catch it (or would rather read than listen/watch), here is a link to the story:
Rebuilding Iraq - One Loan At a Time
Be sure to read past the first page; the second page was far more interesting to me (the story is three pages long).
at 8:06 AM
Monday, June 4, 2007
Three days from today we will head north on I-5 from Sacramento to begin our summer travels - and resume updating our blog. An overnight in Redding (CA), a few nights in Eugene (OR) - where we will be putting 6 gigantic new tires on Scoopy - then we have planned a week-long stay in Hood River, Oregon, in the Columbia River Gorge.
By the end of June, we will be visiting one of my favorite state parks in Oregon, Sunset Beach, just west of Coos Bay on the beautiful Oregon coast. I took this photo in July, 2006. It's clear why we want to return, isn't it?
But leaving our former hometown of Sacramento is always a little bittersweet for me. This visit was one of the best: lots of socializing, including visits with friends I haven't seen for a long, long, time; some great meals; and more frequent and fun family visits. Now we are saying our goodbyes and I know I will feel my usual regrets as we pull out of town - until I tilt the passenger seat into lounging position, bring up the footrest, get Luna snuggled into my lap, and we hit 60 miles an hour. Then, whoopeeee - let the summer begin!
at 10:00 PM